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Such, indeed, will ever be the character of refor.
It was so in every period of the reformation from popery. In this light were Wickliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, and Socinus considered in their day; and such is the light in which every person who in the present times, having by any means ac quired more light than others, is desirous of communicating it, and to improve upon any established system, must expect to stand. The bulk of mankind wish to be at their ease, and not to have their opinions, any more than their property, or their government, disturbed. Being satisfied with their present situation, they naturally dislike any change, lest it should be for the worse. The situation of a reformer must, therefore, require great fortitude, the courage of the lion, as well as the wisdom of the serpent, and the innocence of the dove.
These virtues are equally necessary in our times, as far as they bear the same character; but they are only peculiarly requisite for reformers, and their immediate followers. With respect to chris. tianity in general, the profession of it is not, at least in this country, at all disreputable. On the contrary, it is rather disreputable not to be a christi. an; and I rejoice that it is so, and that infidelity
has not made so much progress as to make it other. wise. And I am willing to think that the seasona. ble and temperate answers which several learned christians have given to the numerous writings of ignorant and petulant unbelievers, have been a check, at least with all sober minded and thinking men, to the late alarming increase of infidelity.
But because the profession of christianity is not disreputable, is the genuine spirit of it more readily imbibed, and the practice of its précepts more ea. sy? By no means.
There is another enemy to contend with, far more to be dreaded than
vio. lence, against which it behoves us to be upon our guard, if we wish to have any thing more of christianity than the name, which alone will avail us nothing; and from the insidious and unsuspected attacks of this enemy, we have no means of escaping, as we might have from those of an open persecution. This
enemy is the world in which we live, and the intercourse we must have with it. For now, as much as ever, to be the friend of what may properly be called the world, is to be the enemy of God. Love not the world says the apostle John, nor the things that are in the world. If any man love the A 2.
world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eye, and the pride of life, is nat of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof; but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever.
In order to feel, and consequently to act, as be. comes a christian, and this in an uniform and steady manner, the principles of christianity must be attended to, and never lost sight of. In time of persecution the distinction between christians and other persons who are not christians is constantly kept up. For then the mere profession of christia. nity makes men liable to suffering, and often to death; and when men are in danger of suffering for any thing, as well as when they have the hope of gaining by any thing, they will give the closest at. tention to it. Their hopes or their fears cannot fail to keep their attention sufficiently awake. When a man is willing to give up
his property, and even his life, for the sake of any thing, he must set a high value upon it. He will cherish the thought of it, as what is dearer to him than any thing else. In such times, therefore, no man would for amoment forget that he was a christian.
The precepts and maxims of christianity would be familiar to his mind, and have the greatest weight 'with him.
But this is not the case in such times as these in which we live. There is very little in a man's outward circumstances depending on his being a christian or no christian. The behaviour of other persons toward him has no relation to that distincti. on; so that he has nothing either to hope or to fear from the consideration of it, there being nothing that necessarily forces, or that very loudly calls for, his attention to it. All the attention that, in these circumstances, he does give to it must be wholly voluntary, the spontaneous effort of his own mind. If his mind be much occupied by other things, he will necessarily relax in that attention, and if he intirely drop his attention to the principles of christianity; if all his thoughts, and all his actions, be directed to other objects, such as engage the attention and the pursuit of mere men of the world, there will be no real difference between him and mere men of the world. Pleasure, ambition, or gain, will be equally their principal objects, those for the sake of which they would sacrifice every thing else.
Christianity does not operate as a charm. The use of it does not resemble that of a badge, or a certificate, to entitle a man to any privilege. It is of no use but so far as it enters into the sentiments, contributes to form the habits, and direct the con. duct, of men; and to do this, it must really occupy the mind, and engage its closest attention; so that the maxims of it may instantly occur the moment that they are called for; and therefore in whatever it be that the true christian and the mere man of the world really differ, the difference could not fail to appear. If there was any gratification or pursuit, that did not suit the christian character, though others might indulge in it without scruple, and despise all who did not; the true christian would be unmoved by such examples, or such ridicule. His habitual fear of God, and his respect for the commands of Christ, will at all times render him superior to any such influence. Whatever his christian principles called him to do, or to suffer, he would be at all times ready to obey the call.
For any principles to have their practical influ. ence, they must at least be familiar to the mind, and this they cannot be unless they be voluntarily cherished there, and be dwelt upon with pleasure,